No one genuinely expects to see an all-out effort to shut down the shooters in an exhibition game, but the casual approach to stopping the offenses bordered on indefensible in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.
That explains why it was both record-setting and entertaining for basketball fans around the world, who witnessed 48 minutes of offensive fireworks by the National Basketball Association’s greatest players, including LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden.
The 2017 All-Star Game had controversy off the court
There were two significant changes made to the NBA All-Stars Game, traditionally played shortly beyond the midpoint of the regular season, in 2017.
First, a portion of the process to select the participants was taken out of the hands of the fans. Whereas fan voting had determined the starters for the Eastern and Western Conference in the past, NBA players and media representatives were given 25% of the vote apiece to help assure that the most deserving players would receive appropriate consideration.
The other change saw the honor of hosting the game stripped from Charlotte, North Carolina, and moved to New Orleans. The decision was the result of a controversial North Carolina law known as HB2, which was enacted a year earlier and restricted local governments from passing ordinances shielding LGBT individuals from discrimination.
The final All-Star Game numbers were mind-numbing
The 66th NBA All-Star Game was played on Feb. 19, 2017, and resulted in a 192-182 victory by the Western Conference to break the contest record for combined points. Though they scored at least 47 points in each quarter, the Western stars came up just short of the one-team record of 196 points they set a season earlier.
Not surprisingly, some of the other statistics were amazing. With no meaningful defense being played (there were only eight free throws attempted), the teams combined to shoot 57.8% from the field and Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked a dozen times on his way to 30 points.
There were 103 assists, including 10 by Kevin Durant as he posted a triple-double in just 27 minutes of court time. Kyrie Irving generated 22 points and 14 assists. Kyle Lowry scored 19 points for just the ninth highest output of the game.
Russell Westbrook posted 41 points in just 20 minutes – including hitting four shots from behind the arc in a span of 63 seconds — and yet had no chance at being selected the game MVP.
LeBron James scored 23 points while Durant and Stephen Curry had 21 apiece.
Anthony Davis kept scoring and scoring
Anthony Davis knocked Wilt Chamberlain out of the record book after a 55-year stay by scoring 52 points for the Western Conference. Davis made 26 of 39 attempts, both records for an NBA All-Star Game, as teammates force-fed the hometown hero the ball.
Chamberlain had established the record of 42 points during the 1962 All-Star Game.
Davis’ work included 20 points in the fourth quarter and 30 in the second half while becoming the first player since the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in 2011 to be selected the MVP on his home court.